Thursday, June 13, 2013

Understanding the Turkish Protests

I've been spending the last several days wondering exactly how I could help the cause of freedom in Turkey. I've been posting and re-posting items on Facebook and Twitter and in doing so driving my friends and followers crazy. And then today while wandering through the Wednesday bazaar in Karsiyaka, it came to me -- many foreigners probably aren't understanding much of what they see due to the humor that Turkish protestors are working into the protest. This post will try to clear the muddy waters of humor that exist within the protest.

First, what is with the penguins?
During the opening days of the protests, most Turkish news channels would not report on what was happening. This is for a couple of reasons, but the main one is that the journalists are afraid and they should be. Turkey has become the number one country for jailed journalist in the world. Yes, number one! After winning the last election with a large voting block (50%), the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) started rounding up journalists that spoke out against them and put them in jail or prison. The one channel that did report what was happening with the protests was just today (June 12th) given a penalty for doing what the news is supposed to do -- report the truth. So the penguins? Yes, a special feature about penguins was being played while the first wave of police violence took place in Gezi Park. The penguins are now a feature of the protests and a comment about the protests. It generally stands for ignoring something that is clearly happening.

Second, what is chapulling? Who or what is a chapuller?
The PM Tayyip Erdogan called the protestors drunks and looters on the fourth day of the protests, up until then he didn't even acknowledge that protests were occurring. The word for to loot in Turkish is Capulmak (the c actually has a little hook on the bottom, something not available on my English keyboard, but the hook makes the C a ch sound). In Turkish you can add a suffix to a word to make it the person who does that job or action - capulcu: a looter. Many Turks realized that capul doesn't mean anything in English, so they converted the word to make it easier for foreigners -- chapul and chapuller were born. This has become a symbol of the protestors and they often jokingly refer to themselves as chapullers. If you ask someone what they were doing last night, they may answer, "I was chapulling." Meaning, I was looting. This particular comment from the PM really got under the skin of people because there was no looting going on in Gezi Park, nor in Taksim Square, nor in any other location where the protestors have been. Chapulling has come to mean "looting" but it really means "protesting." Therefore a chapuller is a "looter" or actually a "Protestor." Turks like to throw the words of their enemies back at them and the PM has fallen victim to this every time the word capulmak is used.

Third, what is #occupygezi?
The hash tag on Twitter and Instagram most often used to share information is #occupygezi. There are several others, but this one seems to have the largest following.